Flight Patterns by Oakley Mertes

Flight Patterns


Oakley Mertes, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


In Collaboration with Dr. Matt Ginder-Vogel and Carl Betz, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Flight Patterns is about the harsh impact of neonicotinoid use, a class of insecticides, on communities of insects and bees. The constant cycle of moving up and down the range of every instrument helps emphasize the routines bugs normally need to do in order to survive. Mertes wanted the sections with solo piano and strings to stand out and make the audience worry about why tonal shifts were starting to happen in the first place. These solos hint at the reality that hives of bees are unraveling by individual bees dying and not being able to function as well as they could before they had contact with neonicotinoids. Mertes used a lot of octave jumps and ascending/descending patterns as a way to symbolize Dr. Ginder-Vogel’s research testing how irrigation impacts the spread of neonicotinoids in soil.


Oakley Mertes is a multimedia artist who primarily works with the mediums of music and film– his music relies on musical techniques such as contrapuntal movements and clustered/crunchy forms of harmony. Oakley’s aiming to work more with electronic and electroacoustic music in the future of his career. He also hopes to learn how to solidify his musical strengths and weaknesses throughout the rest of his two years (aiming to graduate in Spring 2025) at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. His films delve into the concepts of archival material overlapping modern experiences, LGBTQ experiences, and the complexity of everyone he chooses to show on camera.

ABOUT THE Water Partner

Professor Matthew Ginder-Vogel leads the Environmental Biogeochemistry group at UW Madison. Our group studies the fundamental biogeochemical processes controlling the dynamics of nutrients and contaminants within the environment. Our research combines field-based measurements with simplified lab-based experiments and development of novel measurement techniques, in order to reveal the dominant biogeochemical mechanisms affecting element cycling and mobility in environmental systems. Carl Betz, a PhD student at UW-Madison, also worked as a collaborator with The Flow Project.